Kyle Hendricks is self-aware and Ivy League-educated, so he understands where he fits in the bigger picture for the Cubs.
There are bigger names on a team stocked with young talent – and pitchers with better stuff in a frontloaded rotation – but Hendricks knows how he performs will be an X-factor that speeds up or slows down any sense of momentum.
Hendricks looked and sounded drained when he sat down in the Wrigley Field interview room/dungeon, still searching for answers after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Got to do something different,” Hendricks said. “I thought I was turning it around there for a little bit, and my last two starts I’m just giving my team zero chance to win, which is pathetic.”
Theo Epstein’s front office will keep looking for deals that would bolster the rotation and at least bump Hendricks (2-4, 4.46 ERA) into the fifth-starter spot.
Because a pitcher with little margin for error has already given up nine homers through 78.2 innings this season after allowing only four in 80.1 innings last year. And there’s been no carryover effect from a good May (2.81 ERA) into a bad June (5.88 ERA).
“You go back and you compare side-to-side your mechanics,” Hendricks said. “There’s not much different. From the video, it all looks similar. It’s just a feel thing. And the feel just isn’t there.”
Hendricks worked his way into The Plan after last summer’s fire sale, going 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA and earning a job through that 13-start audition.
But Hendricks didn’t look very sharp against the Dodgers (40-33), putting his team in an early 4-0 hole by giving up home runs to Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner and lasting only five innings.
“Absolutely, no question,” manager Joe Maddon said he’s seen enough to believe in the 25-year-old Dartmouth College graduate. “He’s still young. He’s inexperienced.
“He understands what he’s doing, but (it’s taking that) understanding and really making it a reality on a consistent basis this year. Because I guess he was really good last year. So if he did it before, he’s going to do it again. I have a lot of faith in him. I have no doubt whatsoever, actually.”
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Turner’s three-run bomb landed in the left-center field bleachers with two outs in the third inning, but the second-guessing revolved around the at-bat against Dodgers pitcher Mike Bolsinger.
Hendricks got two strikes before Bolsinger connected on a 78 mph changeup – according to MLB.com’s PITCHf/x data – and doubled into center field to set up a Joc Pederson walk and Turner’s big swing.
“My fault, his fault, either way, it’s just not the right selection, so the blame goes on both of us,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “We need to put (the pitcher) away (and) we just did him a favor.”
With $155 million ace Jon Lester starting on Thursday afternoon, the Cubs (39-31) still have a chance to win a four-game series in which they’ve already beaten Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
Epstein’s front office probably won’t acquire a Cy Young Award winner this summer, but with Hendricks struggling and Tsuyoshi Wada sidelined, the Cubs will have to do something.
“It’s always a concern,” Maddon said. “You do need depth there to really take you all the way to the dance, because stuff does happen. It always happens, but I know that our guys are working on it diligently.
“We’ll just see, but I have a lot of faith in our guys that put this whole thing together.”